By Amanda Richey, Staff Writer
Local Rabbi Marc Wilson and Dr. Akan Malici, associate professor of political science, tackled issues of stereotypes and fear in a Cultural Life Program (CLP) presentation Mon., Jan. 25.
The presentation “Don’t Let the Terrorists or The Demagogues Win” was a call to debunk stereotypes of Muslims sparked by terror groups like ISIS and the rhetoric of GOP candidate Donald Trump, and ultimately fueled by fear. The event was co-sponsored by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Jewish Student Association (JSA).
Much of the presentation focused on the simple distinctions people make between themselves.
“There’s a narrative of a clash of civilizations or a clash of religions [between the United States and ISIS]. And that narrative is compelling because it is intuitively sensible,” Malici said. “We are wired to think in terms of us versus them. But, what makes intuitive sense can be wrong.”
According to the presenters, these intuitive distinctions can be exploited by individuals with public platforms.
“There is a campaign for the very soul of America that is being built around encouraging and inciting people to have wrath at ‘the others’ among us. Particularly for Jews, we thought that would never happen again,” Wilson said.
“I think that the rhetoric that we have been hearing is not only ugly or exclusionary or un-American, it is also feeding this idea of a clash of civilizations,” Malici said.
But the presenters were also hopeful that vigilant dialogue could reverse the trends they are seeing.
“You never know where a seed is going to be planted, and someone who didn’t care before cares now,” Wilson said.
Although planning for the CLP discussion began in December, recent events have reemphasized the importance of dialogue, according to the presenters.
Last month a silent protester wearing a hijab was escorted out of a Donald Trump rally in Rock Hill, S.C. following the candidate’s comments linking Syrian refugees to ISIS terrorists.
“Rabbi Marc reached out to Dr. Malici just after hearing everything that’s going on. He wanted to speak out about it,” Fareeha Abrar, president of MSA, said. “The only way that we can eliminate fear is by having dialogue and discussion between people of different faiths and ministries.”